When a marriage ends, the divorcing parents must continue caring for their child. If the parents fail to reach an agreeable arrangement to raise the child, the court can make a decision based on the child’s best interests. This judgment includes which parent has the legal decision-making authority and how much time the child can spend with each parent.
Arizona law plainly defines the requirements for child custody. Arizona state law, Title 13 Section 1302 (B) grants sole custody of the child to an unmarried mother without taking any legal action.
The law specifies, “If a child is born out of wedlock, the mother is the legal custodian of the child for the purposes of this section until paternity is established and custody or access is determined by a court.”
This gives the unmarried mother the right to make decisions regarding the child’s health and well-being without obtaining the child’s biological father’s consent. The mother can also ask for child support from the child’s biological father without the need for a court order.
The child’s biological father can challenge this arrangement later by establishing paternity or by pursuing custody rights to the child. To further protect her rights, an unmarried mother can seek formal custody if the father is seeking custody rights.
Is Arizona still a pro-mother state?
Arizona used to be considered a pro-mother state but times and laws have changed. In 2013, the state made major revisions to its child custody laws. The new changes included replacing the term “custody” with legal decision-making and “visitation” with parenting time.
In most cases, family law judges make legal decision-making and parenting time substantially equal for both parents. Arizona Revised Statute § 25-403.02(B) states, “… the court shall adopt a parenting plan that provides for both parents to share legal decision-making regarding their child and that maximizes their respective parenting time.” The statute also specifies that the court will not consider either parent’s gender when adopting a parenting plan for a minor child.
Parental plan and eligibility
The court could grant joint custody if both parents agree to submit a written parenting plan and if they convince the court that it is in the best interests of the child. The parenting plan will outline each parent’s rights and responsibilities concerning the child’s physical residence, health care, education, as well as the way they plan to handle possible disagreements. Disagreements are usually resolved through mediation or arbitration.
The judge will look at each parent’s qualifications to help determine legal decision-making and parenting time. Eligibility issues that the judge will look into are possible drug or alcohol abuse, child neglect or abuse, and domestic violence. The judge will also consider the age of the children, each parent’s work schedule and the distance between their residences to see if the parenting plan is feasible for both parties and their children.
If both parents satisfy eligibility requirements, the court will grant them equal parenting time (visitation). Both parents will also be given joint legal decision-making (joint custody). That means both mother and father can share equal decision-making authority for their children regarding health, religion, and education.
Arizona isn’t really a pro-mother’s rights state
Again, while Arizona has been referred to as a pro-mother’s rights state, the trend today is for each parent to get an equal share of legal decision-making authority and parenting time.
Arizona is not a pro-father’s rights state, either. Actually, it is more a pro-children’s rights state. In any custody dispute proceeding, the standard rule that the court uses to determine child custody is based on the best interest of minor children.
If you have questions and other concerns with legal decision making and parenting time issues, contact our competent Phoenix family law attorneys at Goldman Law, LLC. We can help you find the best means to resolve any matter regarding parental rights and obligations.